This weekend’s meeting of the SEC Bulldogs will be interesting in several ways. Both Mississippi State University and the University of Georgia are looking to make a statement in the conference on Saturday, Sept. 23.
Georgia happens to be the preseason favorite to win the SEC East. This team’s biggest achievement this season was going to the University of Notre Dame with a backup quarterback on Sept. 9 and getting a win over the Fighting Irish.
Freshman Jake Fromm began taking over for Jacob Eason in the first game of the season after Eason suffered a knee injury from a late hit. Fromm led the upset victory over Notre Dame and has the Georgia Bulldogs at 3-0 heading into their opening conference game against MSU.
Mississippi State, on the other hand, ended up picked to finish sixth in the seven-team SEC West. The media and other critics have been reconsidering MSU’s place in the SEC since the team took Louisiana State University behind the woodshed in a 37-7 victory on Sept. 16. The win put MSU at a 3-0 record, as well.
Any Georgia fan can tell you that the team hasn’t won the East since 2012 and hasn’t won the SEC Championship Game since 2005. In recent years, one could argue that Georgia has underachieved with the amount of talent on its roster.
Meanwhile, MSU has overachieved for several seasons in many ways. Head coach Dan Mullen has built a program that can constantly compete in the SEC. MSU isn’t ready to take down the is the University of Alabama empire yet, but currently, there isn’t a team that is ready to challenge the Crimson Tide for SEC supremacy. A power vacuum exists behind Alabama, and MSU, along with Georgia, is currently in the mix to fill that void.
Georgia and MSU are similar teams. Mississippi State boasts the No. 1 rushing offense in the SEC with 298 yards per game, and Georgia isn’t terribly far behind with the No. 4 rushing offense, averaging 230 yards. Both teams can improve in the passing game, though: MSU is ninth in the conference in passing yards per game, and Georgia is dead last.
Defense is another calling card for both teams. MSU has the No. 6 scoring defense in the nation, allowing just 9.3 points per game, while Georgia allows 14.3 points per game for the No. 21 scoring defense.
Georgia’s defense will have to work even harder to stop the top scoring offense in the SEC. Mississippi State is scoring 48 points per game average, compared to Georgia’s 31 points per game for the No. 6 scoring offense.
Likewise, MSU will have to contend with the two-headed rushing attack of running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel for Georgia. Chubb is averaging 98 yards per game, and Michel will be back after an injury during the Notre Dame game. Georgia will look to wide receiver Terry Godwin in the passing game, who leads the team in receiving yards and in touchdown receptions with three. Wide receiver Javon Wims is second in receiving yards for Georgia.
Fromm has been an adequate fill-in for Eason with five touchdowns and just one interception. He has done a great job of avoiding big mistakes and protecting the ball during his time as the starter. Eason has returned to practice, but it is highly unlikely that he will get any playing time this week.
MSU quarterback Nick Fitzgerald has improved his completion percentage from 54.3 percent last season to 61.4 percent so far this season. He has thrown for seven touchdowns with a single interception. He is also second on the team in rushing yards and first in rushing touchdowns with five.
Running back Aeris Williams leads Mississippi State in rushing with 112 yards per game but has just one rushing touchdown. Kylin Hill is the next leading running back in rushing yards with 115 total yards between three games.
Wide receiver Donald Gray leads MSU in receptions with 10 catches this season for 95 yards and one touchdown. Keith Mixon’s 112 receiving yards puts him at the front of the pack for Mississippi State, and he also has one touchdown. Fitzgerald spreads the ball around, though, with eight players recording three or more receptions so far this season.
Georgia only allows 71 rushing yards per game for No. 5 in the nation, and MSU is No. 21, allowing just 101 yards per game. As such, the quarterback who makes the most plays in the passing game may decide this game, and if that is the case, Mississippi State could have the edge. MSU has the No. 6 passing defense in the nation, allowing just 105 yards per game. Georgia is giving up 195 yards in the air for No. 45 in the nation.
Tune in to ESPN at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23, to see which Bulldogs squad will come out on top.